Happy Halloween! The world can be a dark and scary place, but today is the day when we celebrate that darkness and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. To that end, I thought I’d give a shout out to Lovecraft scholar Justin Woodman, whose seemingly inexhaustible supply of items for his “Lovecraftian Thing a Day” blog has churned up some interesting non-fiction fringe books that connect Lovecraft to modern fringe history in unexpected ways, and a few ways that I wasn’t aware of.
Let’s start with Item No. 299, The Illuminoids (1978) by Neal Wilgus. The book is a crazy-quilt of conspiracy theories, offering the now-standard connection of Freemasons to the Trilateral Commission and all the other arms of what we now call the New World Order. But according to Woodman, tucked away inside this books, which I have never read, are references to H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional Cthulhu Mythos as though they were real parts of the Illuminati conspiracy. There is a listing, for example, of the “first recording of the Outer Ones from Yuggoth” taking place in 1915, and speculation that Yog-Sothoth secretly masterminds the Illuminati. These seem to be clues that Wilgus was writing at least a somewhat satirical take on conspiracies, modeling his work on Robert Shea’s and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus trilogy, and Wilson even provides an introduction to Wilgus’ book.
Item No. 300 is Peter Kolosimo’s Not of This World (1968), a book that I both read and reviewed here on my blog (See: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4). Woodman correctly notes that Kolosimo uses Lovecraft promiscuously, but I don’t think he stated as clearly as he could that Kolosimo directly quotes Lovecraft stories, not just alludes to them, as evidence for aliens, monsters, and other crazy ideas. Passages from At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth appear in the book, though this is disguised somewhat by the English translator’s failure to look up Kolosimo’s sources, resulting in a bizarre English to Italian to English re-translation.
Item No. 301 is a book I’ve had occasion to flip through but never actually read all the way through, William Michael Mott’s Caverns, Cauldrons, and Concealed Creatures (2000, 2001, and 2011), which alleges that Lovecraftian fiction conceals hidden truths about the Hollow Earth.
Then we come to an effort that frankly made me laugh. Item No. 302 is a book by our old friend Nick Redfern, entitled There’s Something in the Woods (2008). Redfern tries to argue that August Derleth, in his posthumous collaboration with Lovecraft, “elected to present at least a part of his arcane knowledge in fictional form within the pages of The Lurker at the Threshold.” Thus, Redfern speculates that Derleth might have had secret occult knowledge unknown to the general public. I cannot resist quoting Woodman’s accurate and insightful analysis of Redfern’s illogic:
Redfern’s basis for such claims? Some of the things presented in Lurker are a bit like some other reported paranormal phenomena; in addition to which, Lurker mentions [Charles] Fort. From this, Redfern infers that Derleth might have known more than he was letting on (the possibility that Derleth may have been using Fort and other accounts of supposedly-paranormal phenomena as the basis for his fictions isn't really given serious consideration). It’s difficult here to feel sympathetic towards Redfern’s work in the face of a rather inept attempt to by-pass critical thinking; indeed, this use of inferentially-rhetorical questions is an overused device that remains sadly typical of many paranormal writers.
I almost want to read Item No. 303 based on Woodman’s description of it. Walter Bosley’s Empire of the Wheel III: The Nameless Ones (2014) is a self-published manifesto that purports to explore how H. P. Lovecraft is connected to a laundry list of conspiracy theories drawn from fringe literature as part of Bosley’s larger investigation into four obscure murders in California in 1915. Bosley’s larger picture is about ritual magic, human sacrifice to Hecate, and a global death cult responsible for plans for a breakaway civilization of elites. He brings in not just Lovecraft but Aleister Crowley, the Zodiac Killer, the Lusitania, and all manner of modern conspiracy theories. Woodman informs us that Bosley argues that Lovecraft was involved in the murder of Harry Houdini at the behest of nefarious “Nameless Ones.” However, as fascinating at this book sounds in its sheer outrageousness, the preview available through Amazon indicates that it is an almost unreadable amalgamation of gibberish, tempering my enthusiasm somewhat.
Item No. 304 is familiar to my readers: It’s Tracy Twyman’s bizarre claim that the Old Ones were the kings of Atlantis! Twyman bizarrely believes that the secret cult that runs the world are actually transdimensional Lovecraftian beings, and they lie dead but dreaming under Rennes-le-Château.
And if all that left a bitter taste in your mouth, cleanse your palate with Ken Feder’s recent essay for the Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square’s “What It Means to Be American” series in which he explores the Cardiff Giant and how it anticipated the drive to supplant science with faith, and expertise with the plainspoken home truths of the common man.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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